Two Christmases ago, Emily Tipper, 10, was walking around downtown Victoria when she noticed a significant number of homeless people sleeping on the streets.
The observation led her to ask her father, ‘What do the homeless have to eat for Christmas?’
After learning that the homeless are forced to visit soup kitchens or struggle to find food, Emily resolved to distribute lunches the following year.
“It made me feel a bit sad how many people are homeless on the street,” Emily recalled.
She immediately began collecting and returning bottles to gather funds, which raised about $400 — $50 of which was a generous and unsolicited donation.
The money funded 150 bagged lunches and 30 additional sandwiches. Each packed lunch contained a turkey salad sandwich, gingerbread cookie, candy cane, an orange and a bottled water.
The entire operation was a family affair, with brown bags taking up every surface of the Tipper household.
With a car trunk loaded with food, Emily, along with her father, older sister, and a friend, headed out to feed the homeless on Dec. 23.
With little success finding homeless people in Sooke, the quartet drove into Victoria, where they distributed all of the food within three hours.
They handed out the bagged lunches in areas like Yates Street, Johnson Street, the Salvation Army, the Mustard Seed, and Rock Bay Landing.
The positive experience left Emily, who conceived of the entire initiative, with mixed emotions.
“It made me feel a bit happy, and sad at the same time, how they’re homeless and have to struggle to get food,” she said.
“And it made me feel happy how I was helping them.”
A prominent memory from the afternoon was when a homeless woman spotted the charitable girls, and ran down the street to greet them.
The woman gratefully accepted a bagged lunch, and broke down into tears, stating she hadn’t eaten in days.
She then shared a word of caution with Emily, and advised her to stay in school to avoid the hardships of poverty.
After witnessing the positive impact of their efforts, the girls agreed they would return next year, but with double the amount of food.
With 300 bagged lunches as a target, Emily has already begun collecting bottles.
According to her father, Mark Tipper, all of the Tipper children have altruistic tendencies, with Emily being a very sensitive child.
“Emily is a very emotional person, and she always thinks of others first,” he said. “She’s always been that way.”
In October 2012, Emily shaved her head and raised $800 for Cops for Cancer.